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'Batwoman' 2.05 Review: Gore on Canvas

A great episode that's weighed down by Kate Kane's legacy.

Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) and Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) in 'Batwoman.'
(Image: © The CW)

Our Verdict

A strong episode that's otherwise weighed down by the insistence in continuing the "where's Kate" narrative.

For

  • 🦇The scene with Luke and Ryan on the balcony is an all-timer.
  • 🦇Continuing to illustrate how differently Sophie treats Ryan depending on what she's wearing is infuriating and necessary.
  • 🦇The ACAB story is handled very well.
  • 🦇All in on the Alice and Ocean storyline.

Against

  • 🦇The Kate Kane "mystery" is obligatory but exhausting.
  • 🦇As always, the need to give The Joker an identity is exhausting.
  • 🦇The Angelique story isn't doing anything to get us intrigued yet.

This post contains spoilers for Batwoman.
Check out our last review here

This week’s Batwoman follows two unfortunate threads despite ultimately sticking the landing. The first of which is dragging the Kate Kane disappearance front and center and pulling the majority of the attention off Ryan Wilder, with the second being the continuation of DC’s insistence on giving The Joker an identity. So far as Kate goes, her continued inclusion is unavoidable (particularly for those who don’t keep up with the story behind the scenes), but there’s got to be a better way to tell the two stories together without pulling so much from Ryan’s. The second half of the episode pulls that off, but by and large Season 2 has struggled with being the Kate or Ryan story.

Those frustrations aside, “Gore on Canvas” pushes the narrative forward while successfully illustrating the "quiet" cruelty of the Crows. While Ryan (Javicia Leslie) struggles with the idea of working with Gotham’s cops, Luke (Camrus Johnson) and Mary (Nicole Kang) try and help her understand that the situation is unavoidable. Ryan’s right to put her foot down — the Crows have never shown her anything but abject cruelty — but for Luke (whose father was murdered by the Crows), the risk is worth the reward.

That is, right up until the gala-turned-robbery goes sideways.

Upon discovering that Napier’s gore-painted masterpiece (eyeroll) was done on top of a map to Coryana, Batwoman attempts to steal the piece so they can get to the bottom of Kate’s location. However, she’s beat to the painting from some guy dressed like The Foot from Power Rangers. When she attempts to give chase, the kryptonite poisoning running through her body puts her on her ass. The Crows beat her to the mysterious thief, shoot at him, and then side swipe them with their car.

Batwoman thankfully manages to get to Wolf Spider (Evan Blake, played by Lincoln Clauss) before he bleeds out, but it’s the last straw. She finally calls out Luke, pointing out that she can no longer make decisions for his approval and she’s done compromising her beliefs. Mary gets caught in the middle a little bit here, but she did vote with Luke to partner with the Crows because she trusts Sophie (Meagan Tandy).

Speaking of Sophie — the difference between how she treats Ryan and how she treats Batwoman remains night and day. You’d think she’d have a bigger problem with the woman who’s currently wearing her girlfriend’s suit, but clearly being Black and poor is a bigger issue to the Crows’ second in command. After the incident with Wolf Spider, Sophie takes the badges of the Crows responsible, believing that will be enough for her to continue her partnership with Batwoman in order to find Kate. Despite Batwoman making it clear that won’t be the case, the Crow insists that she remains where she is in an attempt to change the culture of the organization. Given that we’ve seen her prove that she contributes to that culture several times already this season, it makes sense that Batwoman pointedly declines the offer.

As all of this goes down, Alice (Rachel Skarsten) continues her mission to find and kill Ocean (Nathan Owens). The goal to kill him got a little complicated as soon as the weird flashbacks started happening, but Gotham’s Queen of Crime isn’t so easily deterred. She does, however, get bested easier than she typically would after five shots. Ocean captures her with ease when she shows up at his hotel room to off him — something he appropriately mocks her for later — but he finds himself jarred by the same flashbacks Alice experienced back in his apartment in the last episode. To avoid getting too close to recap territory, the summary here is this: Safiyah (Shivani Ghai) was his surrogate sister, he and Alice made out a lot while they were on the island and she didn’t like it, and the two of them had their memories erased for their troubles.

While the Ocean and Alice drama is directly tied in with what’s going down with the hunt for Kate, it pulls off more intrigue thanks to Skarsten’s always phenomenal performance and its relevance to the series’ future. Ocean doesn’t know they used to make out yet, but the idea of Alice having to reconcile with experiencing romantic love is something I’m very excited for.

As has been the case for all of Season 2, “Gore on Canvas” is at its strongest when it allows Ryan to be the focus. The conversation between her and Luke on the balcony is both stellar and heartbreaking. Despite Luke’s overarching desire to save Kate, he pulls no punches when he discusses the Crows or how he feels about them. The context around his character shows us that he’s not giving the organization any leeway, he simply cares more about finding Kate than he does his own wrath. Meanwhile, Ryan’s response is equally relevant. Their conflict took a hard shift from a reductive tantrum on Luke’s part to a complex conversation about conflicting motives, and it only serves to strengthen future episodes.

By the time things draw to a close, we see that Ryan is about to deal with a full range of Kryptonite poisoning-related problems. Somehow, she and Angelique (Bevin Bru) managed to sleep together all night without her noticing that her ex has a gaping wound in her shoulder, but that’s more of a frustrating aside than anything. Mary does attempt to help Ryan, but no one in Gotham really has any idea what the wound is capable of. Yet.